We walked in through the back door (no giggling) because the keys for the front had long been lost. I remember being underwhelmed by the exterior and dismissive of this selection all together. It was not in my neighborhood of choice, and it just wasn't what I had imagined for us. That is until the smell.
My body reacts more passionately through my nose than any other sense. Smells can literally whisk your mind off to better places and better days when your surroundings are screaming otherwise. I think of life like one big Febreeze commercial. Like I'm sitting in a world of garbage but if I can just buy a cashmere woods candle from Target, it's livable.
This particular smell did just that. We pushed through the sturdy backdoor to be embraced by warm, old wood and moist, moldy air that very well could be toxic but smelled of home.
As we walked through, the flaws were evident: warped floors, cracked tile, stuffy rooms. But the space was magical, and laden with the character I had dreamed of. You could sit between these walls and feel the people who had walked here, workedhere, laughed here, cried here, lived.
Grant and I saw the twinkle in each other's eyes, and for the rest of the day that smell lingered. Every other house we looked at was gutted of any recognizable warmth. And at day's end we made an offer.
We purchased that smell and all its history and turned decisively toward making our own.
This house on Evergreen street will go down as the longest three year chapter of my life. We finalized, and moved in one month after becoming Husband and Husband. The furniture we had then was handed to us from neighbors and family. Nothing is more adventurous, it seemed, than purchasing 90 year old empty spaces and filling them with your life. And it happens that my life then, would grow in a direction I hadn't planned.
My husband and I would not be the only ones to call Evergreen our home. We had a revolving door of friends who, at different times, needed a place to stay. We most always obliged, and sometimes to our detriment, but always to our growth and enrichment.
It is here, in the middle of Memphis Tennessee, I would learn what it is to be queer. These friends (and family) taught me to walk the walk and talk the talk of a gay man. Through them I saw the world in color. Vibrant, effervescent color.
We walked in heels, and danced in our underwear. I watched my husband and brother learn to paint their faces as the genderbending women that bubbled under all our skins. And we lived. Lived up to the smell. Lived up to the old magic of the space we danced in. Lived through each other's break ups and make ups. Lived amongst some of the Memphis gay communities most exciting and illustrious characters.
These queers marked Evergreen street for those that come after us. A mark I'll take with me and wear for the rest of my life. A mark that can only be recognized as confidence.
My husband and I opened our doors to those we thought in need. A door for which, if we had remembered, we had no key. This place refused ownership. It belonged to us all. The house was 90 years old when we found it, but we built it from the ground up. We shoved each other against its walls and made love on it's floors. We laid a foundation so thick we'll each thrive on it for the rest of our lives.